Learning To Play Music One Beat At A Time…
FENG SHUI As it applies to life and music… Feng shui, fundamentally has been known to be about the correct layout of one’s surroundings having plants, fish, or birds in the home all placed in accordance to direct the flow of energy. With music we are about feeling the moment, noticing others and paying close attention to the reality in which we dwell. It’s about growth in awareness, effectiveness, understanding, it’s an alliance to the core truth of one’s being, one’s choices, and how we directly effect the universe.
As individuals, groups or parties we can position ourselves to be in the flow of life though our actions and mental attitude and the values and principles which we choose to live by. The principles of nature exist whether we choose to work with or against them. For example the Law of Gravity works consistently, no matter what we think about it. We can ignore it, use it, or work against it. Either way, it’s working. In this way we think of a spiritual principle, as a law of nature.
In applying spiritual principles with music we take it much further in depth… To our music and our lives, we put ourselves with the flow of life. When we’re in the flow, a lot of ‘synchronicity’ occurs (events that seem to have no possible causal relationship to one another occur simultaneously and without explanation, like heavy duty coincidences).
One way to think of these events are as signposts along the path, letting us know we’re heading the right direction. Or realizing when we are not! The music that we make from this position is for growth, connection, healing and learning as well as for entertainment. It’s really for the betterment of humankind when seen like this. The music business can be a place where egotistical, prima donna and elitist mentalities can stand in the way of the powerful capacity of the music.
If we learn, teach and perform music from the spiritual perspective in the true essence of the gift music is to the world we stand a much better chance not only of keeping the music alive but of helping each other as a community and the world.
Effortlessness: More Than Making It Look Easy!…
Have you ever noticed how good drummers make playing look easy?
They are always relaxed, confident, and in control, even when playing something difficult. These drummers make playing look easy because, to them, it is easy.
As a result of devoting countless hours of study and practice time, these players have developed the ability to play in a virtually effortless manner, both mentally and physically.
Every musician must strive for effortlessness in their playing, in order to reach their full potential.
Since I began teaching drums, the most common problems I’ve observed among students are, without question, going to fast at first!! (A biggie) over-thinking, physical tension and breathing! (Believe it or not a lot of people forget to breath, you can tell by the red faces.
All of these problems create unnecessary obstacles that make playing the instrument more difficult than it really should be. Fortunately, these problems can be corrected or avoided altogether with the guidance of a qualified instructor and the implementation of good and patient practice habits.
Mental Effortlessness: Getting out of the way…
The term “mental effortlessness”, as it relates to playing a musical instrument, represents the ability to perform with little or no conscious thought. “Going on Automatic” the causal effect is about getting out of the way, This ability can be developed through repetition and is commonly referred to as “muscle memory”. Of course, our muscles can’t actually think or memorize anything—they can only react to instructions from the mind.
Therefore, in order to play with mental effortlessness, we must actually train our minds to play.
Think of it like this…your mind/ brain is the most sophisticated computer on the planet… Did you know that??…
The human mind is capable of something like 20 BILLION Calculations in any given second….
Whoa!…Think about THAT for a second!! (20 billion times… heheheh)
And here is the clincher… Your mind has virtually UNLIMITED Storage space to top it off!!… Trippy huh?
So, that said….If you put good information in, you get good information out. This is where slowly at first helps the most! There is a lot going on when we play drums.
Our four limbs often play four different rhythms at the same time, creating a poly-rhythm (poly- meaning more than one) and some of us more crazy individuals add singing while playing to the mix.
While all this is happening, we also need to listen very intently to what is going on around us, musically, individually and be 100% aware of time, dynamics and song arrangements—sometimes while reading written music!
If you’re consciously thinking about physical execution, it’s going to be extremely difficult to successfully accomplish all these tasks at the same time.
You have to be focused on what to play, not how to play it. And let yourself just “Feel it”
Practicing for Mental Effortlessness: Utilizing the method.
When learning new material, there are 3 things I strongly advocate to my students to make it happen more quickly
1) Analyze the music in front of you thoroughly
2) Slowly count it out, you should be able to count it out successfully first! I was taught by my teachers
“If you can count it you can play it!”
3) Next is where I suggest sounding it out singing the beat or phrase out loud!
Thus training the mind by actually programming for the task at hand!
By singing the parts out loud so your ears can hear if you are correct or not.
If you cannot count and sing the parts, then it is likely you will have difficulty playing it correctly.
Hint: These are the sounds I use…. For the bass drum parts I sing a “Boom” sound and for the snare drum parts I sing a “Taaa” sound.
Once you can count and sing the parts you are now ready to attempt it on your instrument. for the other instruments …. you get the idea!
Once you’ve decided you’re ready to attempt to play the part, be patient and do not be concerned with speed, at first; accuracy must be your primary goal.
Work through the passage slowly and repeat it over and over, in a steady rhythm, without stopping.
This allows your mind (and ears) to absorb the material and build muscle memory more quickly. You’ll probably find that, in many cases, your hands and feet are already physically able to play the individual parts of the material, but the mind has yet to coordinate the movements.
Once your mind understands what you should be playing, your body will follow the mind’s instructions quite easily, and playing the passage will gradually become easier as you think less and less about it.
In time, your mind will make the connection between your body movements and the sounds they produce, and you’ll be able to play the passage with complete mental effortlessness, at a tempo limited only by your physical ability.
Physical Effortlessness: Above all else…. RELAX!!
The term “physical effortlessness” describes the ability to accomplish a task (in our case, drumming) with very little physical effort.
The first and most effective step toward achieving physical effortlessness is the development of proper, relaxed playing technique.
When utilizing proper technique, achieving the natural rebound of the sticks which takes proper placement of the fulcrum (pivot point) in the hands with the sticks and proper placement of the feet for the pedals allowing nature or gravity in this case to do a lot of the work, enabling you to remain loose, relaxed and efficient. The key is to exert just enough physical effort to accomplish the task at hand.
I strongly advise every drummer to study with a good teacher who will assist him or her in developing and employing proper playing technique, both with the sticks and pedals.
Muscular tension is the enemy of physical effortlessness.
As you are playing, physical tension is always “knocking at the door”, waiting for an opportunity to harm your playing.
If you allow tension to “to get in”, you’re in deep trouble! As soon as you tense up in any way, your control goes right out the window, your playing can become very stiff and uneven, and—worst of all—your time is very likely to suffer.
If you feel yourself tightening up, make a conscious effort to let go of the tension. Actually tell yourself; Exhale, Breath and relax!
Practicing to the point of physical and mental effortlessness enables our bodies to easily perform the physical task of playing, it frees us from conscious thought regarding movements and technical information.
This effortlessness enables us to react to situations instantly, with little or no conscious thought, by calling upon the skills we’ve learned through repetitive practice.
I hope this has helped you to understand a bit more perhaps about what it takes to achieve mental and physical effortlessness in your playing, and why it is necessary.
Remember: If you find that a passage is still physically difficult to play, or if you find yourself consciously thinking about the moves you are making, continue to practice the material slowly and repeat until it is easy for you.
Hopefully this Resonates for you on some level!
I wish you well on all your Musical and Life endeavors!
God Bless, and all the best of luck to you!
Thanks for dropping by!
Jeff Wolfe – OC Drum School
(949) 433-0476 or Email: email@example.com